Located near the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Easton, MD, SolidTops has seen a steady evolution over the past decade, and it has developed into an exemplary stoneworking facility that is among the first MIA-accredited fabricators in the nation. This achievement is one of many by the company and its owner, Evan Kruger, who has pioneered several initiatives in the last few years.
Kruger said his background in shipbuilding gave him an advantage in learning the countertop trade. “If you have a background in boat building, then you can really make any shape,” he explained. “For me, it was a matter of learning the tools.”
Ultimately, Kruger sold both Intermac CNCs to his brother-in-law for use at Signature Stone, a fabricating operation in Grand Rapids, MI. These were replaced with two Northwood CNC stoneworking centers. The company also invested in a dual-table waterjet from Flow International of Kent, WA.
Straight edge work is completed on a Sasso Meccanica RCM TE polisher, serviced by SassoAmerica of St. Louis, MO, and a Marmo Meccanica LCV 711M is used to polish the edges of backsplashes. Meanwhile, an EnviroSystem from Water Treatment Technologies of Hampton, NH, is used for water recycling.
Templating crews from SolidTops use a Stealth 7200 L arm from Touchstone Instruments to digitally measure jobs, and a technician on staff translates the recorded measurements into data that can be fed into the CNC machines and waterjet.
The company has a total of 32 employees, and it was processing as many as 50 projects per week (including stone and other materials) before the downturn in the economy.
Business strategySolidTops opened a new showroom in 2008 that reflects its transition to a retail-oriented philosophy. “We had worked for builders and dealers, and we still do, but we are also selling a lot more directly,” Kruger explained. “Our biggest savior has actually been the retail push. It has helped us in terms of margins, but also allows us to be in direct contact with the customers. If you’re in touch directly with the homeowner, you have the best chance to meet their expectations.”
Sidebar: SolidTopsEaston, MD
Type of work: residential and commercial work in natural stone and quartz surfacing
Machinery: Two Northwood CNC stoneworking centers from Northwood Machine Corp. of Louisville, KY; a Yukon bridge saw and Wizard radial arm polisher from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; a dual-table waterjet from Flow International of Kent, WA; a Sasso Meccanica RCM TE polisher, serviced by SassoAmerica of St. Louis, MO; a Marmo Meccanica LCV 711M for polishing backsplashes; vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT; an EnviroSystem from Water Treatment Technologies of Hampton, NH; Stealth 7200 L templater from Touchstone Instruments, L.L.C. of Plaistow, NH
Number of Employees: 32 (including stone fabrication/installation and other materials)
Sidebar: About the Artisan GroupSolidTops is one of 34 member companies in the Artisan Group, a national organization of independent granite fabricators that have joined together to offer the Artisan Stone Collection, the first and only brand of granite wholly owned by Artisan Group, which has a comprehensive lifetime warranty. The group also offers Heritage Wood TM countertops and Kohler sinks and faucets.
Group members average more than 20 years of fabrication experience in the countertop industry. Moreover, all Artisan Group members have achieved, or have begun the process to achieve full accreditation with the Marble Institute of America. The group is among the first granite fabricators in the world to be working towards this distinction. Collectively, they surpassed $350 million in sales in 2008.
Artisan Group also provides a complete line of granite care products including: FirstlineTM Sealer, FirstlineTM Clean & Restore and FirstlineTM Shine.
“We wanted to raise the bar and offer our business partners and consumers more value through our products and service,” said Evan Kruger of SolidTops, an Artisan Group Board Member. “This approach has resulted in some synergistic relationships that include an exclusive dealer program with Kohler and our own line of exotic wood countertops.”
Because of the way members conduct business, the group is attracting more members and exclusive contracts with some powerhouses in the kitchen and bath industry, such as Kohler. “Combining two leading brands -- Kohler and Artisan Group -- fills a need in the marketplace that is currently underserved,” said Mally Henne, Channel Manager for Kitchen Products at Kohler Co. “Kohler’s wholesale channel is ready to connect and build business in this important surface market. This program ensures customers receive high-quality products from recognized brands within their respective industries.”
Also, every Artisan countertop is sealed with Firstline Sealer, which is exclusive to the Artisan Group. “We are confident that homeowners will embrace our lifetime warranty and will appreciate the superior fabrication and service Artisan Group provides,” said Sid Mackay, an Artisan Group Board Member. “This new warranty offers customers perpetual peace of mind about a major purchase that’s generally a focal point inside their home.”